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Wednesday, July 19, 2017


While I was taking my morning walk [along the circumference of the 5th arrondissement], I reflected on several very significant recent developments in American domestic politics.  [I shall reserve to a later post my responses to the wealth of interesting comments about morality and international affairs.]  I refer first to the revelations regarding the meeting between Kushner, Trump jr., and Manafort and an ever expanding roster of characters, and second the collapse of the efforts of Senate Republicans to do something, anything, about the Affordable Care Act.

The daily revelations about the meeting make it more and more likely that there was a sustained, extensive, conscious, deliberate attempt by Trump himself and his closest advisors to work hand in glove with agents of the Russian government to defeat Hilary Clinton, in return for which assistance Trump would deliver a lifting of economic sanctions and other desiderata of the Putin government.  You may adopt any evaluative stance toward this effort you wish, but it is becoming more and more implausible to deny that it occurred.  Since Clinton was an historically awful candidate, she would no doubt have contrived to lose the election all on her own, but pretty clearly laws were broken, and Robert Mueller will, I should imagine, prosecute a number of the members of Trump’s family, unless, as I expect, Trump intervenes and issues a raft of plenary pardons.  I rather doubt there could be revelations sufficiently awful to prod the Republican House to vote a bill of impeachment.  We shall have to wait and see.

The failure of Senate health care initiatives is splendid news, for two reasons.  First, it stops the Congress and President from doing terrible, terrible harm to tens of millions of people.  Second, it establishes the political truth that health care is now indeed the third rail of modern American politics, as Social Security once was.  [For the youthful among you, when subways powered by electricity were introduced, the trains ran on a pair of parallel rails through which no electricity flowed.  The power was delivered by a third rail.  You could jump down onto the tracks and touch the first two rails with impunity, so long as you got back up before the next subway train ran over you, but if, when doing so, you touched the third rail, you got electrocuted.]  The third rail became first a metaphor and then a cliché for a legally established right or program it was political death to touch.

The Democrats, even those suicidally bent on resurrecting the Clintonian Democratic Leadership Council’s Third Way, have taken notice of the spontaneous upswelling of resistance to the Republican efforts to repeal the ACA and seem collectively to possess the wit to make opposition to those efforts the centerpiece of their 2018 campaign.  By one of those bizarre turns that makes politics so hard to predict, in the midst of this ground level resistance, Single Payer seems to be gaining support.

By the way, merely flying to Paris seems to have made it possible for me to squelch the tendency to view American politics as the natural center of the universe.  Very liberating.


Jerry Brown said...

I agree that the failure (so far) of the Senate health insurance removal bills is splendid. And that it stops the Congress and the President from doing terrible harm to millions of people, which I would have considered wrong to do. Probably unethical even. But had it passed, there is no doubt that I would have blamed the group of Republicans in the Senate, both individually, and also collectively- because individually they could not have done the harm, but as a group they would have been able to. Luckily, so far their group has been largely ineffective in this area, and therefore cannot be held responsible for anything, even though many of their individual members would be up for attempted reckless endangerment charges if I had a say in it. It would be good if that group remains ineffective, at least in my opinion.

I am surprised you mentioned those old comments on the post about morality and international affairs- I have totally forgotten about that subject... Seriously though, I hope you are enjoying your stay in Paris even if they are making you eat snails.

howard b said...

Do you think Trump's passive resistance will get off the ground?

David Auerbach said...

Sadly, there's already concerted pushback from the Clintonistas, as evidenced by various articles sprinkled into the New York Times, WAPO, etc. Concerning things like: blue dog Democrats best bet for electoral success; or moderate governors countervailing leftward drift; or ... nauseatingly etc.
Their motives? Hard to tell if it's a desire to remain out of power (who would envy being a Republican-in-power now), or a desire to remain in power (within the Democratic party) or more straightforwardly venal reasons about where their paychecks are likely to come from. (all topped with a garnish of ideological stupid).

s. wallerstein said...

Yes, it is very liberating to free oneself of the tendency to view U.S. politics and the U.S. in general as the center of the universe.

In Being and Nothingness, Sartre tells the story of a revolutionary who was being exiled from France to Brazil. Someone said to him: that's so far away.

Far from where?, was the reply.

mesnenor said...

Dr. Wolff, are you under the impression that subway trains and other electrical trains no longer use a "third rail" that they draw power from?

I can assure you that this technology is still in use.

Jerry Fresia said...

With regard to the collaboration issue: agreed; this is the first piece of solid evidence presented to the public in the entire Russia-gate saga. But we are still a long way from impeachment which is less a legal issue than a political one and thus far the American public doesn't seemed too impressed with the "smoking gun" theory of Trump, Jr. emails.

Further, Glenn Greenwald has argued that the mtg in question is not only not a smoking gun but may not have been illegal:

Also let us not forget the context: the original Maddow-DNC claim about the Russian "attack" on our elections seems to be fading away. Not only did the NYTs correct it's "17 American intelligence agencies" fabrication, but recent evidence (meta data) suggests that the data transfer in question was at 23 megabytes per second, far too fast to be explained by external hacking and therefore likely explained by an internal leak:

Finally, we progressives need to be cautious about hitching our wagon to the security/police state that the "Russian attack" meme is accomplishing. Max Blumenthal, another outstanding independent journalist (ignored by liberal media and thus picked up by Fox for the following interview) makes the case that the hacking meme aligns Dem progressives with the permanent war and "free" trade agenda sought by the corporate Dem leaders:

But when Trump warns Mueller not to investigate his financial ties with Russia, is he not pointing to where the bodies lie? The question, then, is this: is the "billionaire class" that owns the country willing to investigate one of its own and risk revealing how the game is played?